TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard is one win away from his second NBA title and likely second Finals MVP award.

That still hasn’t assured Leonard of signing a long-term deal with the Raptors, though the chances have seemed to increase. There was a recent report Leonard had just bought a place in the city.

Leonard gave an interesting response in denying he had purchased any Canadian property.

“No, I didn’t,’’ Leonard said after Sunday’s practice. “It didn’t happen yet, no.”

Yet? That’s not a bad sign for Raptors fans hoping the franchise can defend its first title — if they can hold off the Warriors on Monday in Game 5 — with Leonard.

The Clippers have long been considered a favorite to land Leonard, who is from Southern California. The Post reported last week the Knicks expect to at least get a meeting with Leonard.

The do-everything, even-keeled forward embodies the Raptors’ mindset of not refraining from premature celebrations despite being up 3-1 and playing at home Monday with a chance to clinch.

Much has been made about the stone-faced demeanor in their locker room at Oracle Arena after Friday’s Game 4 triumph put them in control. While all of Canada was in revelry, the Raptors were business-as-usual despite racking up two wins in the house the Warriors have ruled for the past five years.

“I think it’s just we’re focused,’’ said Leonard, averaging 31 points in the Finals. “We know that it doesn’t mean anything until someone has four wins. You never know what could happen and you’ve got to take advantage of it and don’t get overly hyped and excited. Still a great basketball team on the other side. I think that was our mindset.”

After a rough shooting night in Game 1, Leonard has shot 29-of-59 while attacking the boards and enhancing his reputation as the NBA’s best defender.

But Leonard has noted his distaste for dwelling on individual stats. On Saturday, Leonard revealed there are only three numbers he looks at in a box score after a game — rebounds, turnovers and field-goal percentage for each team.

Leonard, who made the Finals twice with San Antonio, has been part of many closeout games in his career. This spring alone, the Raptors took out Orlando, the Sixers and the Bucks.

“You’re playing against a better team, a championship team,’’ Leonard said of the difference now. “That’s pretty much the only difference. Other than a regular playoff game, you’re just playing against a better team at that point.’’

Last season was Leonard’s roughest, playing just nine games because of a complicated rehab for an injured quadriceps. He lived a lot of the time with his uncle in northern New Jersey. After forcing a trade from San Antonio over the summer, Leonard’s 2019-20 campaign has gone like a fairy tale.

“The year I had last year and then just being able to play in the Finals this year has been great,’’ Leonard. “But I’ve been happy just being able to return to basketball. So just enjoy it. It’s why you’re here. You never know when those times will come when you’re not going to be able to play or get injured. That’s what my mindset is.”

Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here